Prepare the scallops: pull off the pale white frill and any other pieces around the scallop to leave you with a sweet, plump, clean-looking scallop (or ask your fishmonger). Place the scallops on a plate, brush with sunflower oil, season lightly with sea salt and set aside. Squeeze the lemon juice into a bowl, add the finely sliced fennel and feathery fronds and toss in the juice. Set aside. Place the shallots, vinegar and white wine in a pan along with the water. Bring to a gentle simmer and reduce until almost all the liquid has gone. Reduce the heat to very low and whisk in the cubes of cold butter, one piece at a time. Once all the butter has been added, the sauce should resemble a thin custard. Remove from the heat and set aside. Add the chopped chives and taste for seasoning. Heat a heavy-based frying pan and pan-fry the scallops for 2 minutes until they are caramelised in colour, then turn and cook for another minute. Time to add that splash of Pernod, if you are feeling it.
Divide the butter sauce among warm serving plates. Place 3 scallops on each plate and garnish each scallop with fine shards of fennel. Eat with happiness and mop up any butter left on the plate with some bread.
COOK’S NOTE A quick supper that I sometimes make for my family: use beurre blanc to finish off spaghetti with chilli and sage.